Could Termites Make 3D Printed Buildings More Energy Efficient?

Could it be possible to build more energy-efficient 3D-printed buildings using what we know about termites? Possibly, if researchers at Lund University in Sweden and Nottingham Trent University in England are to be believed. While studying the termite mounds of Macrotermes michaelseni (a species native to Namibia), they discovered that they are able to create dwellings with a comfortable indoor climate without excessive energy consumption. By constructing an intricate network of lattice-like tunnels between 3 and 5 mm wide, the termites intercept the wind around the termite mound, powering ventilation and controlling the indoor environment.

The researchers discovered that this wind also carries away excess moisture and respiratory gases. Dr. David Andréen, a senior lecturer at the bioDigital Matter research group of Lund University and the study’s first author, explained, “Here we show that the ‘egress complex’, an intricate network of interconnected tunnels found in termite mounds, can be used to promote flows of air, heat, and moisture in novel ways in human architecture.” Thanks to their research, the project’s leaders are now able to imagine how it would be possible to reproduce these structures with man-made buildings.

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